I don’t bake bready type things often so tackling a classic like soft pretzels was new culinary turf for me when I first tried this recipe several years ago. In this case, the instructions called for parboiling the pretzel dough in a solution of baking soda and water. Huh?
It turns out that the alkaline solution created by the baking soda is responsible for the nice brown crust that is so distinctive to pretzels. Without it, the result would look much like a dull breadstick. Also the parboiling gives the dough an extra fluffy texture.
I found the recipe on Food52 and have been making them as a treat for the family with one difference: I substituted maple syrup for the barley malt syrup. Then it occurred to me that Runamok Maple Syrup could figure in some excellent dipping sauces. If you want to go the sweet route, use coarse grained sugar to top the pretzel and then make a dipping sauce of confectioners’ sugar mixed with any of the infused or barrel-aged syrups. If you like your pretzels salty, top them with kosher salt and make up a dip of mustard and any Runamok maple syrup – they would all be excellent in their own unique way.
However you prefer your soft pretzels, they should be eaten the same day they are baked and preferably when still warm from the oven.
Soft Pretzels* (both Sweet and Savory)
- 2 tsp yeast
- 1 cup milk, scalded then cooled
- 1 Tbsp Sugarmaker’s Cut Pure Maple Syrup
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp softened butter
- ¼ cup baking soda
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
For salty pretzels:
- Kosher salt
- 3 Tbsp whole grained mustard
- 1 Tbsp any Runamok infused, smoked or barrel-aged maple syrup
For sweet pretzels:
- Pearl, sanding or other large grained sugar
- 2 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar
- 1 Tbsp Cinnamon+Vanilla Infused or any Runamok barrel-aged maple syrup
In a large bowl, mix the yeast into cooled milk. Add maple syrup, a cup of flour, the butter and salt and stir to blend. Add the remaining flour and mix with your hands. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead on a clean surface for about 5 minutes. Return to the bowl, cover and let rise for about 90 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set a large pot of water on the stove, add the ¼ cup baking soda and bring to a boil.
In the meantime, cut your dough into 8 equal portions. Take one portion at a time and roll it either on a floured surface or between your hands. I find it easiest to roll it between my hands, pulling gently to elongate it as I go. When it is about 20” long fold them into a pretzel shape by making a loop, folding the ends of the loop over one another. Then take the twisted ends and flip them up toward the top of the loop, attaching the ends of the coil to the loop by squeezing the dough together.
When all of the dough portions have been folded into pretzels, take them over to the boiling water. Gently lower your dough into the water, poaching them for about 30 seconds. Remove them with a slotted spoon, letting the excess water drain off.
Choose which pretzel toppings you want; sweet or salty. Brush the pretzels with egg and then sprinkle a generous portion of either salt or sugar. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 8-10 minutes, turning the pan midway for even browning. (If you rolled the dough very thin, they will bake much faster. Thick coils will take longer.) When they are just starting to brown, remove from the oven.
Mix the dipping sauce of either the mustard and maple syrup or confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup, depending upon which topping you chose. Serve when they are still warm from the oven.
*Adapted from ”Baker’s Sign Soft Pretzels”, Food52 by Nicholas